New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has opendly challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi a day after getting disqualified from parliament over Surat court's sentence against him in the 2019 defamation case. Addressing a press meet here on Saturday, an agressive Rahul stated that he would keep guarding the democracy even if he disqualified from Parliament for life or jailed. Taking a dig at the centre, he claimed that a "panic-stricken" government has handed the Opposition a "weapon" with the move to disqualify him.
At his first press conference after being disqualified from the Lok Sabha, Gandhi claimed that he has been disqualified because Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "scared" of his next speech on the Adani issue and alleged that the "whole game" was to distract people from the panic that the government was feeling over the matter.
Gandhi said the moot question remains who invested Rs 20,000 crore in Adani shell firms and that he will keep raising it.
"I am here defending the democratic voice of the Indian people, I will continue to do that. I am not scared of these threats, of these disqualifications, allegations, prison sentences. I am not scared of them. These people don't understand me yet, I am not scared of them," he said, attacking the BJP.
Gandhi said he will continue to ask what is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's relationship with businessman Gautam Adani.
"I have been disqualified because the prime minister is scared of my next speech. I have seen it in his eyes. So he is terrified of the next speech that is going to come and does not want that speech to be in Parliament," the former Congress chief alleged at the press conference, flanked by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel and party general secretaries Jairam Ramesh and K C Venugopal.
He claimed that his attack on Adani was the reason for distraction through allegations and now disqualification.
Asked if he was hopeful that his membership would be restored, Gandhi said, "I am not interested in hope. (Whether) I get my membership back or not, I will do my job. Even if they permanently disqualify me I will do my job, if they reinstate me, I will do my job. It does not matter to me whether I am in Parliament or outside it. I have to do my 'tapasya' and I will keep doing it," he said.
Pressed further on it, Gandhi reiterated that it makes no difference to him even if he is disqualified from Parliament for life or put in jail and that he will keep marching ahead.
The Congress leader also thanked Opposition parties for extending support to him and asserted that going forward, all of them will work together.
Asked about the consequences of his disqualification, Gandhi said the Opposition will benefit the most from this "panic reaction of Prime Minister Modi".
"They have handed us this weapon. They got into panic mode that the truth will come out. They have handed over the biggest weapon to the Opposition because people have a question on their mind, they know Adani is corrupt, and question is why is the prime minister saving this corrupt person," Gandhi said.
He said he will continue to fight for the truth in the country and to defend the democratic nature of this country.
"I will do whatever I have to do to defend the democratic nature of the country. What does that mean? It means defending the institutions of the country, defending the voice of the poor people of the country, it means telling the people of this country the truth about people like Mr Adani who are basically exploiting the relationship with the prime minister," Gandhi said.
He alleged that for the BJP-led government, "country is Adani and Adani is country".
Asked about the BJP's charge that his 2019 remarks that were the centre of the defamation case were an insult to OBCs, Gandhi said he has always talked about brotherhood and the issue was not about OBCs but about Adani and his ties the government.
In response to another question, Gandhi said, "My name is not Savarkar, it is Gandhi and Gandhi never offers apology."
Asked about the defamation case in which he was convicted, Gandhi said it is a legal matter he will not comment on it.
He also said attacks are being made on democracy in the country and examples of it keep manifesting from time to time.
Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on Friday, nearly 24 hours after a court in Gujarat's Surat convicted him in a 2019 defamation case, an action the Congress slammed as the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) "vindictive politics" and vowed to fight against it legally and politically.
The BJP dismissed the charge and termed Gandhi's disqualification "lawful".
The disqualification from the Lok Sabha will bar Gandhi (52), a four-time MP, from contesting polls for eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction.
(With inputs from PTI)